A 2012 Johnson-Brock High School graduate and Brock, Nebraska, native supports the training of naval aviation personnel and air operations.

Ensign Austin Penfield is a student pilot serving with Training Air Wing 4 at Naval Air Station Corpus Christi, Texas. Training Air Wing 4 oversees Primary flight training in T-6B Texan II aircraft and Advanced multi-engine flight training in T-44C Pegasus aircraft at four squadrons on base.

Currently, Training Air Wing 4 produces approximately 600 newly qualified aviators each year.

A Navy student pilot is responsible for learning and mastering aircraft systems for naval aircraft to become a successful future aviator for the fleet.

“It's stressful but you have a sense of accomplishment when passing your flight trials because you know you are getting one step closer to achieving that primary goal of flying and defending the skies for your country.”

Penfield credits success in the Navy to many of the lessons learned growing up in Brock.

“My hometown did a great job preparing me for my naval career,” Penfield said. “Coming from a small town, I participated in a lot of activities throughout high school and learned how to be a good teammate which in the military, is one of the biggest teams out there.”

There are more than 40 tenant commands and activities located on NAS Corpus Christi. The Chief of Naval Air Training (CNATRA), headquartered here, oversees the training operation throughout the Southeast Region, from Texas to Florida. Under CNATRA's command are five training air wings, 17 training squadrons, more than 14,000 Navy and civilian personnel, the Navy Flight Demonstration Squadron, the Blue Angels, the Naval Aviation Schools Command and the National Museum of Naval Aviation.

The air training program is approximately 18 months long and focuses on the increased complexity of today’s aircraft. Students must complete multiple phases of flight training in order to graduate, including aviation pre-flight indoctrination, primary flight training, and advanced flight training. After successfully completing the rigorous program, naval aviators earn their coveted “Wings of Gold.”

A key element of the Navy the nation needs is tied to the fact that America is a maritime nation, and that the nation’s prosperity is tied to the ability to operate freely on the world’s oceans. More than 70 percent of the Earth’s surface is covered by water; 80 percent of the world’s population lives close to a coast; and 90 percent of all global trade by volume travels by sea.

Penfield plays an important role in America’s focus on rebuilding military readiness, strengthening alliances and reforming business practices in support of National Defense Strategy.

“Our priorities center on people, capabilities and processes, and will be achieved by our focus on speed, value, results and partnerships,” said Secretary of the Navy Richard V. Spencer. “Readiness, lethality and modernization are the requirements driving these priorities.”

Though there are many ways for sailors to earn distinction in their command, community and career, Penfield is most proud of receiving his commission in becoming a naval officer.

“It was one of the most difficult things I had to do because it was so different from what I experienced before,” Penfield said. “It’s very physically and mentally demanding and there is always a seed of doubt in your mind however, you just have to decide if you want it that bad or not.”

Serving in the Navy is a continuing tradition of military service for Penfield, who has military ties with family members who have previously served. Penfield is honored to carry on the family tradition.

“My father served in the Navy in the mid to late 80s,” Penfield said. “He chose the Navy and I wanted to serve in the same branch that he did. After joining and becoming more familiar with how the different branches operate, I'm glad I made the choice I did because the Navy's mission aligns with my mindset as well.”

As a member of one of the U.S. Navy’s most relied-upon assets, Penfield and other sailors know they are part of a legacy that will last beyond their lifetimes providing the Navy the nation needs.

“Serving in the Navy is important to me because I get the chance to be a part of the organization which is responsible for protecting the country I love,” Penfield said. “I have great respect for the men and women who volunteer their time to serve and I'm proud to be one of them.”